Now showing at Two Door Cinema Club – a story Hollywood could’ve writ. Full of action, intrigue, conflict and resolution, Reservoir Dogs meets Rocky meets A Star Is Born meets Love Actually. The elevator pitch: in 2008, three schoolmates from Bangor Grammar School in County Down – singer Alex Trimble, guitarist Sam Halliday and bassist Kevin Baird – form a band intending to add a pristine melodic frisson to the helium rock sounds of Foals and The Maccabees. Signing to French indie label Kitsune and all but ignored by the media, they build a DIY phenomenon by dint of relentless touring and a close connection to their online fanbase, nicknamed The Basement People.
Within two years they’re playing to festival tents rammed with 30,000 rabid Cinephiles, their debut album ‘Tourist History’ goes platinum on the back of cult singles such as ‘Something Good Can Work’ and ‘What You Know’, and they’re being mobbed in the street everywhere from Mexico to Tokyo to LA. Come 2011 their second album ‘Beacon’ – recorded with Jacknife Lee (U2, REM, Bloc Party) in his LA studio – hits Number Two in the UK and they headline Alexandra Palace and the O2, the ultimate modern-age success story.
Cue the drama. Six years of intense non-stop touring saw the band fracture and dislocate in the wake of 2012’s Number Two second album ‘Beacon’, ricocheting across the world to take a break from each other, battle their individual demons and addictions and discover who they really were after spending their entire adult lives inside the bubble of the band. When they reconvened in 2015, largely via email, to tentatively explore the idea of a third album, there was clearly more plot to unravel. Writing remotely (the trio spent five months pinging demo tracks around their inboxes from their home bases) and recording organically (again with Jacknife Lee in LA) allowed such disparate influences as Madonna, Prince, Chic, Kraftwerk and neo soul to infiltrate their sound, and the resulting album, 2016’s ‘Gameshow’, was a modernist pop triumph, and a Top Five hit to boot.
Setting out on tour again, however, was a leap into the unknown. “At the beginning everything felt very fragile because we hadn’t left on great terms after the second record and making the album was the beginning of this mending process,” says Alex. “We were still trying to get to know each other again so going in there was a little bit of trepidation, but actually it was amazing. Touring ‘Gameshow’ was the best touring experience I’ve ever had in this band. We were getting to know each other again and all preconceived notions of who each other was as a person was gone and it was starting fresh. It was just being mates again. We started from the beginning with everything.”
Having a brand new crew and an extra onstage member in guitarist and keyboardist Jacob M Berry helped oil the wheels too. “Nobody was comfortable when we started,” Alex explains, “which was the best thing we could’ve done. Everybody had to get to know everybody and it was kind of plain sailing from there.”
“I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would have,” Sam agrees. “We started off the tour in Mexico, and we just enjoyed being there. If that had been in the middle of a campaign a few years before we would all have been holed up in our hotel rooms and not being too adventurous – we were all enjoying being away somewhere fun like that. There’s an element of not taking all of that for granted now and try to make the most of it.”
“We stopped having a point to prove,” Kevin adds. “The success of the first and second record, and because we weren’t championed by a big outlet, radio or TV or whatever, it almost felt that we had to prove we deserved to be there and think ‘are we ready to headline festivals?’ When it came to the ‘Gameshow’ tour we let go of a lot of that and allowed ourselves to do what we do and be happy and thankful for that.
Finally all pulling in the same direction, TDCC felt like a brand new band, and one with a brand new audience. Rather than starting from scratch after a major career hiccup, the Spotify generation had embraced their early albums in their absence and TDCC slid right back on track. By the end of a far more stress-free and harmonious two-year tour they were back in the festival headline saddle, topping the bill at Finsbury Park’s Community Festival last July.